Monday, October 7, 2013

One of the Best Meals I've Ever Cooked

We had dear friends for dinner last night, and one of the guests has complained that when he eats at fine restaurants, the food is too heavy and too much. So in his honor I made the following nearly all vegetarian meal (but with fish and a cake containing eggs and buttermilk). A huge success!

Hors d'oeuvres

Toasted baguette slices with Salvatore smoked ricotta and diced sun-dried tomatoes. My own idea.
Puff pastry bâtons filled with tapenade, inspired by Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table.


Roasted butternut squash with sweet spices (fresh-ground allspice and smashed cardamom), limes and sliced jalapeño peppers, and yogurt-tahini sauce, slavishly following the recipe in Ottolenghi's brilliant Plenty. This was just sensational, with the interplay between the sweet cardamom and allspice, the sour limes and the spicy jalapeños mediated by the mild but nutty tahini-yogurt sauce.


Striped bass with preserved lemon dressing and baby carrots, from Joe Isadoro (via Ina Garten), with squished potatoes from Laura Calder. Another winning new dish, with wonderful freshly caught Long Island bass filets from the Sunday morning greenmarket behind the Museum of Natural History.


Simple salad of local micro greens with a mild citrus dressing.


Candied fennel lemon cake, from a 2009 Gourmet recipe, with homemade rosemary ice cream, both  standby favorites. The counterpoint between the licorice-y flavor of the fennel and the tartness of the lemon zest and juice leaves your head spinning but in a really nice, comforting way.

Everything came out perfectly, a nearly unprecedented feat for me. No leftover parsley or cilantro that I forgot to put in, nothing overcooked, etc. Lots of courses, but light enough for our friend and full-flavored enough for all of us.

Bobby Jay

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